This chapter begins with a statement concerning the commandments which the Lord gave His people to observe. These were what Moses taught the people – all of what God commanded him to teach, and that alone. Similarly, Christ’s ministers are to teach His Church all that He has commanded – neither more nor less (Matt. 28:20). These things were taught to God’s people so that they would have His fear and love in their hearts, which are the most powerful principles of obedience. And it is highly desirable that not only we, but also our children and our children’s children, may fear the Lord and thus obtain true wisdom (Ps. 111:10). Righteousness advances and secures the prosperity of any people.
Verses 4 and 5 contain a brief summary of the basic principles of faith and obedience. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Jehovah, our God, is the only living and true God; He alone is God, and He is only one God. Let us not desire to have any other. Happy are we who have the one and only Lord for our God! It is better to have one fountain than a thousand cisterns, and one all-sufficient God than a thousand insufficient friends! This is the first and great commandment of God’s law – that we love Him, and that we do all parts of our duty to Him from a principle of love. The Lord says to us, “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). We are to love God with all our heart and soul and might. He Who is our All must have our all, and no one except He must have it. We must love Him above any creature whatsoever, and we must love nothing else except what He Himself loves. O that His love may be shed abroad in our hearts!
Verses 6-16 lay out means for maintaining and keeping up religion in our hearts and in our homes. First, there is meditation. God’s Words must be laid up in our hearts, so that our thoughts may be daily filled with them. Second, we must educate our sons and daughters in the ways of the Lord. We must often repeat these things to them. Third, there must be pious discourse. We ought to talk of these things with proper reverence and seriousness – not only for the benefit of our children, but also for our friends and companions. We should seize every opportunity to discourse with those around us about the plain truths and laws of God, and the things that belong to the peace of our souls. Fourth, we ought to frequently be found reading the Word. God appointed the Jews to have sentences of His law posted upon their walls, and also upon scrolls of parchment that they wore about their wrists. This was a precept that the Jews were to literally perform, but it is good for us to fulfill this precept in a spiritual sense – that is, we should use all means and methods to make the Word of God familiar to us, so that we may have it ready to use upon all occasions, in order to restrain us from sin and direct us in our duty.
Here we also find a caution to not forget God in a day of prosperity and plenty. When we obtain a gift easily, we are often inclined to grow secure and become unmindful of the Giver. Therefore, we must be very careful when we find ourselves in such cases, lest we forget the Lord! When the world smiles upon us, we are often inclined to expect our happiness in it; and so we forget Him Who is our only true portion and rest. How much we need to exercise care and caution at such a time! Having been warned of our danger, we must pray for grace to stand upon our guard!
This section concludes with the words, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” – neither by despairing of His power and goodness, while we are in the way of our duty; nor by presuming upon it, when we turn aside out of that way of duty. The latter of these was what the devil tried to tempt Jesus to do in Matthew 4:5-7, and it was the 16th verse of this chapter that our Savior quoted against him.
In verses 17-25, we have a charge to keep the Lord’s commandments. Negligence will ruin us; we cannot be saved without diligence. It is in our best interest, as well as our duty, to be religious. It is only through the Mediator that we can be righteous before God. All our acceptance is in God our Savior, and in His complete righteousness; for the Apostle tells us that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).
A most delightful subject is opened to us in these verses also, for the Jewish children were naturally supposed to enquire into the peculiarities of their parents’ and grandparents’ faith. And the fathers were to be as naturally earnest in gratifying their children’s minds in the information of the truth. O that all Christian fathers and mothers would be alive to this most interesting and all-important business! Turn to the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 21:9, 16; Ps. 8:2), and take a view of the children in the temple who were under the Divine teaching of the Holy Spirit, and saluting the blessed Redeemer with loud Hosannas. This will give us somewhat of an idea of the loveliness of early childhood piety!
O Lord, give us grace that our religion may be both a family religion and a personal religion with us, so that all around us may see that we love You! Amen.
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